SpaceX aborts Starlink satellite launch with 5 seconds left in countdown

a rocket sits on a launch pad, almost entirely obscured by fog
Fog envelops a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on July 19, 2023. The planned liftoff that day was aborted with five seconds left in the countdown. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX just aborted a rocket launch for the second time in less than a week.

One of the company's Falcon 9 rockets was scheduled to launch 15 Starlink internet satellites from California's foggy Vandenberg Space Force Base on Wednesday (July 19) at 1:25 a.m. EDT (0525 GMT; 10:25 p.m. local California time on July 18).

But it wasn't to be: The launch team called things off with just five seconds left on the countdown clock. 

Related: SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos

"There are thousands of ways a launch can go wrong and only one way that it can go right," SpaceX's Zach Luppen said during the webcast of the planned launch. "Given that, we are overly cautious on the ground. And if the team or the vehicle sees anything that just looks even slightly off, they'll stop the countdown."

SpaceX's Atticus Vadera uttered very similar words on July 14, after the launch team called off the planned liftoff of a Falcon 9 topped with 54 Starlink satellites from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. That rocket flew without incident the next day, acing its record-tying 16th mission.

It's unclear what caused Wednesday's abort; the mission team did not specify the issue during the webcast, which ended shortly after the launch was scrubbed. (The weather was good enough for launch, despite the thick fog at Vandenberg.)

But Luppen said that the rocket and the Starlink satellites are in good health. And SpaceX aims to launch again soon: The company said via Twitter that it's targeting Wednesday (July 19) for the next liftoff. Presumably, that means a 24-hour delay, with a launch Wednesday night California time, which is early Thursday (July 20) EDT and GMT. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:15 a.m. EDT on July 19 with the new target date of July 19 California time

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.